HONOLULU --- The small crowd far down the eighth fairway could see John Daly, just not where his golf ball was headed.
Daly is hard to miss these days, even from more than 300 yards away -- not because he has lost 100 pounds, rather the colorful prints he wears, some that look like a gum ball machine.
On this day at the Sony Open, the gallery was curious to see whether players would go at the green more than 450 yards away with a stiff wind at their backs. Daly's tee shot sailed over the trees and just through the fairway. Next was Bubba Watson, even longer off the tee, and his drive stopped in the short grass about 70 yards short of the green.
So much for that notion of playing it safe this year.
While one hole -- especially those two players -- is not the best sampling of strategy on the PGA Tour, two weeks into the new year did little to support the theory that players will give up distance for accuracy because of V-shaped grooves now required in irons.
What followed was worth noting.
Daly is using 20-year-old Ping wedges that still have square grooves (legal through a loophole), and he couldn't figure out how to play toward the pin. He chose a low trajectory and wound up 40 feet short. Watson played a higher trajectory and still came up 25 feet short.
Clearly, there will be some adjustments to make this year.
In an effort to put a greater premium on accuracy, golf's governing bodies served up the most significant rollback in technology by banning box-shaped grooves that generate greater spin.
Will that make golf harder?
Geoff Ogilvy defended his title at Kapalua with 22-under 280, two strokes higher than last year, and that can be attributed to the strong Kona wind that makes the course slightly tougher.
Ryan Palmer won the Sony Open on Sunday at 15-under 265, the same winning score Zach Johnson had last year.
Whether scores will suffer will not be noticeable until more tournaments are played on different grasses in a variety of conditions. The new grooves at least appear to make the game different.
The best example came at the decisive par-5 18th hole in the final round at Waialae, when Palmer and Robert Allenby were tied for the lead, both in the rough right of the fairway.
Palmer had 226 yards to the hole for his second shot, thought about a 6-iron, then changed to a 5 because the ball was sitting up in the grass and he didn't think it would jump off the club. He guessed wrong, and the ball came up 50 feet short.
"It obviously didn't jump out like I thought it would," Palmer said. "It caught a little bit high on the club face."
Next up was Allenby, who was in about the same spot the day before when he hit a 4-iron. This time, he opted for a 5 from 218 yards and it came out hot, running through the back of the green and against a TV tower. With a nasty lie, he opted to pop up a wedge and did well to leave himself a 10-foot putt up the hill, which he missed and lost by one shot.
"I had the same yardage as yesterday, and I hit one club less and it went further," Allenby said. "And that's the beauty of the grooves today. It has changed the game of golf, which I think is for the better. I think it's great, because now we have to all of a sudden manufacture our way around the golf course."